The return of the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) to a detectable serum level (PSA recurrence) is usually the first sign of recurrent disease after radical prostatectomy. PSA recurrence generally occurs in men who are otherwise asymptomatic and may occur as late as 5 to 10 years after surgery. Men in this situation want to know what this means regarding the likelihood of clinical disease recurrence and, ultimately, survival. An evaluation for recurrent disease is warranted but generally does not reveal objective signs of clinical disease in the majority of men. Although select men may benefit from salvage local therapy, a PSA recurrence is most often an early sign of distant disease present since the time of surgery. The decision whether or not to initiate systemic therapy in these men is difficult and controversial. Fortunately, recent developments in determining the significance of a PSA recurrence may help the patient and his physician to make a more informed decision regarding treatment options.
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